The Illinois State Police Merit Board has seven members who are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Illinois Senate to serve four-year terms. No member shall be appointed to serve more than two terms, and no more than four members shall be affiliated with the same political party. The Merit Board meets quarterly.
CADET APPLICANT PROCESS
The State Police Merit Board certifies applicants to the Illinois State Police for appointment. Applicants undergo written testing, physical ability testing, a background investigation and review, and an oral interview.
The State Police Merit Board certifies Illinois State Police Officers as eligible for promotion to the rank of Sergeant, Master Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain. Examinations for each rank are held biennially. Sergeant and Master Sergeant examinations are administered on even numbered years. Lieutenant and Captain examinations are administered on odd numbered years.
The State Police Merit Board has the authority to remove, demote, or suspend Illinois State Police Officers for cause. After the filing of written charges by the Director of the Illinois State Police, the Merit Board conducts hearings and decides the guilt of the Officer and the appropriate discipline.
The State Police Merit Board may review suspensions of thirty days or less imposed by the Director of the Illinois State Police if a suspended Officer petitions the Board. The petition may be set for hearing or, by unanimous decision, dismissed if there is no substantial basis for review.
MERIT BOARD HISTORY
The mission of the Illinois State Police Merit Board is to remove political influence and provide a fair and equitable merit process for the selection of Illinois State Trooper candidates and the promotion and discipline of Illinois State Police officers.
The State Police Merit System was established under the Illinois Highway Police Act on July 20, 1949, by the 66th session of the General Assembly.
Governor Adlai Stevenson, with consent of the Senate, appointed a three-member Board to govern the merit system. No more than two members of the Board could belong to the same political party. Terms of the members were set at six years, with original appointments at two, four and six years to allow staggered terms and continuity of the board policy.
In accordance with the provision of the Illinois Highway Police Act, the board established qualifications for state police applicants. The original qualifications stated that an applicant needed to be, at least, 21 years of age and not more than 35 years of age at the time of appointment. An applicant was required to be a United States citizen, with no criminal record, and a resident of Illinois for the two previous years. The minimum height requirement for an applicant was five feet nine inches and the maximum height requirement was six feet four inches. The U.S. Army standards dictated minimum weight for height, and an applicant, weighing more than 35 pounds over Army standard, was not eligible. An applicant was required to have a high school diploma or a General Education Development Certificate. Finally, an applicant was required to be of sound mind and body and of good moral character.
On July 1, 1963, the Board began a recruiting program that included qualification standards for women. A female applicant was required to have at least five years employment experience in social, group, probation, parole or penological work, or in law enforcement, nursing, teaching or investigation. A female applicant was required to be a qualified stenographer or, in lieu of that, she must have graduated from college, in addition to having one or more years of employment experience in the fields previously mentioned. The age requirement for a female applicant was no less than 25 years of age and no more than 40 years of age and the height requirement was a minimum of five feet two inches tall and a maximum of five feet nine inches tall, without shoes.
In 1970, the State Highway Police changed to the Department of Law Enforcement. Legislation effective July 1, 1977, which reorganized the Department of Law Enforcement, was responsible for abolishing the State Police Merit Board and establishing a new board entitled the Department of Law Enforcement Merit Board. The Board was expanded to five members, with no more than three of the same political party. The new board modified the applicant requirements. The new criteria stated that an applicant must be between the ages of 21 years and 36 years, or 20 years old if the applicant had successfully completed two years (60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours) of law enforcement studies, at an accredited college or university, with a "C" average or better. An applicant must have a valid driver's license, be physically fit and agile, with weight proportioned to height, and have no defects that would affect or interfere with the nature of the work. A vision requirement for 20/20 vision, or correction to the same, was added. An applicant with tattoos on either hand, wrist or forearm would not be considered.
Executive Order Number 3 of 1985 by Governor James R. Thompson, renamed the Department of Law Enforcement to the Department of State Police. Then, in September of 1988, the Department of State Police became known as the Illinois State Police. During all this time the Merit Board remained an entity within the Illinois State Police.
On November 1, 1989, House Bill 44, introduced by Representative Wayne Goforth, was passed, separating the Board from the Illinois State Police. This separation, effective on that date, allowed the now named Illinois State Police Merit Board to exercise its powers and duties in an independent manner, free from the direction, control or influence of any other agency.
On January 1, 2020, Public Act 100-11 amended the minimum requirements for Cadet applicants to allow those who have completed an associate's degree or 60 credit hours at an accredited college or university, and removed the bachelors degree requirement.
On January 1, 2022, Public Act 101-0652 increased membership of Merit Board from 5 members to 7 members; amended length of Board Member terms from 6 years to 4 years; limited members to no more than 2 terms; prohibits former Illinois State Police employees from serving on the Merit Board, prohibits former employees of the Illinois State Police from employment with the Merit Board, requires the Merit Board to establish by rule a fee waiver program, requires the Merit Board to file an annual report with the Governor and the General Assembly, requires the Merit Board to terminate any State Police officer convicted of a felony or a list of specified misdemeanors, permits the Merit Board to terminate any State Police officer for violations enumerated in the Section.
Currently, the seven-member Merit Board remains deeply dedicated to providing a fair and equitable merit process for the selection of state trooper candidates and promotion and discipline of State Police officers. For over 70 years, the Merit Board's responsibilities have remained essentially constant. The Merit Board's applicant requirements though, have been modified throughout the years as a result, mainly, of legislation and court cases.